A fire that severely damaged a popular restaurant, cafe and bar on Gisborne's waterfront was not deliberately lit, say police.

With the last fire crew leaving the charred scene just before dawn, police and fire safety officers now say the destructive blaze was not suspicious.

"It appears to have started in the kitchen," said police communications manager Kris McGehan.

The fire started in the kitchen of the Wharf Café Bar and Restaurant at around 8.15pm and the first firefighters who arrived said the building was filled with dense smoke, with more smoke coming out of the roof.


Five city fire appliances responded and fire crews from three rural volunteer brigades were called into the city as backup.

The Wharf Café Bar and Restaurant is situated at one end of a refurbished former wharf storage warehouse on one side of the harbour basin in the Gisborne inner harbour.

The long building also houses a law firm and the Lone Star restaurant.

Patrons at the Lone Star were evacuated as soon as staff saw smoke drifting past their end of the building.

One of those patrons said he could see no flames inside the Wharf Café and Restaurant as he went past but there was "heaps of dense smoke" inside..

Firefighters in breathing apparatus dealt with the fire in the kitchen fairly quickly, but it took some time for them to locate and deal with the further burning in the roof space above.

The fire was finally declared out at around 10pm.

The St John ambulance service had crews on standby at the fire scene, but there have been no reports of injury.


The cause of the fire is still to be established.

It was a busy night for Gisborne firefighters.

The backup crews were called to deal with a sizeable grass fire on a hillside in the suburb of Mangapapa while the firefighting at the wharf was underway.